CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Saturday qualifying report

Paul Tracy comes back after rough Friday qualifying to capture pole for Sunday's CART Champ Car G.I. Joe'S 200 at Portland International Raceway. PORTLAND -- (June 21, 2003) -- Paul Tracy ( ...

Paul Tracy comes back after rough Friday qualifying to capture pole for Sunday's CART Champ Car G.I. Joe'S 200 at Portland International Raceway.

PORTLAND -- (June 21, 2003) -- Paul Tracy (#3 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) did not have the best of days during Friday's CART Champ Car World Series qualifying session at Portland International Raceway, ending his day in eighth place after a late-session incident, and finding himself as the target of his competitors' wrath.

But a day makes a huge difference in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford and Tracy took to the 1.969-mile permanent road course with renewed vigor on a cloudy Saturday afternoon and likely made his 18 rivals even angrier as he stormed to his second pole of the season. Tracy went out early as the skies threatened to open up at any moment, and put up the day's top lap of 58.793 seconds (120.565 mph) just six minutes into the session.

"We wanted to get out quickly and I actually raced (teammate) Pat (Carpentier) off Pit Road so I could have some clear race track," Tracy said. "Any time you get a cold breeze here, the rain is usually five or 10 minutes away so we wanted to get out quickly."

Tracy scored his best time on only his fourth lap, and despite the fact that he would go out and run 14 total laps, he would not be able to better that early time. Fortunately for Tracy, no one else would match it either as he rolled to his 15th career CART Champ Car pole position. The time appeared unlikely to stand up after the first 10 minutes of the session as three drivers immediately broke into the 58-second range -- a barrier that went undisturbed through Friday qualifying.

That fact was not lost on Michel Jourdain Jr. (#9 Gigante Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who decided to wait and see what developed in the session before heading off Pit Lane. The Mexican driver had already locked up a front-row starting spot by virtue of his leading Friday qualifying, and did not want to get caught up in the initial rush off of Pit Lane.

"We decided to wait because we did not have a good pit position and I didn't want to waste any laps trying to find clear space in traffic," Jourdain said. "But when I saw guys putting up 58s right away, I knew it would not be easy."

Jourdain would head on the track as the weather radars glowed green with approaching rain showers, vaulting into the second spot on his third lap and improving to a time of 58.838 seconds (120.473 mph) on his fourth pass. The decision to come out when he did ended up being the right one for Jourdain as it was less than 10 minutes later that the session would lose most of its drama.

Adrian Fernandez (#51 Tecate/Quaker State/Telmex Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Sebastien Bourdais (#2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would threaten to break into the front row, having broken into the 58-second range early in the session, but the track was at its fastest early in the run and no one was able to dip their times any lower despite the fact that most of the field had their allotted 15 laps in the books less than halfway through the 40-minute session.

Roberto Moreno (#4 Herdez Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) put a halt to the proceedings with 18 minutes to run when he spun in the first drops of rain and brought out a red flag. Things deteriorated rapidly soon after the Simple Green Champ Car Safety Team pulled the Herdez car out of the tire barrier. The clouds could hold their moisture no longer and covered the track in rain, keeping teams from having any hope of posting better times. The session would go green again just long enough to get the guaranteed 25 minutes of green flag time in before it was scuttled by the Chief Steward.

Fernandez would hold on to take the third spot in the qualifying order with a best lap of 58.948 seconds (120.248 mph), marking his best-ever starting spot at Portland and matching his best effort of the 2003 season as the veteran also started third in the season opener at St. Petersburg. Bourdais, who was given a pair of gold Puma driving shoes earlier in the day in honor of his wins in Brands Hatch and EuroSpeedway Lausitz, would end the day fourth after a lap of 58.976 seconds (120.191 mph).

Alex Tagliani (#33 Johnson Controls Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) would come back from a disappointing Friday to round out the top five, marking his fifth top-five qualifying effort of the 2003 season. He would be followed by Oriol Servia (#20 Visteon/Patrick Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) who led a Lola sweep of the first three rows. Ryan Hunter-Reay (#31 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone) led the Reynard contingent for the second straight day, but unlike yesterday, the rookie would present a perfect car to the technical inspectors and was rewarded with the best starting spot of his brief CART Champ Car career and the American Spirit Team Johansson driver would earn the seventh position on Sunday's grid. He will start alongside fellow rookie Darren Manning (#15 RAC/Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone), who qualified eighth, one spot ahead of yesterday's second-best runner Jimmy Vasser (#12 American Spirit Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone). Patrick Carpentier (#32 Player's/Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top 10 for Sunday's 100-lap event with a time of 59.455 seconds (119.223 mph)

The green flag will drop on the 20th running of the G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway at 12:30 Pacific Time on Sunday, and can be seen live on CBS Sports starting at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

TOP THREE QUALIFIERS QUOTES:

*PAUL TRACY "As bad as our timing was during first qualifying, our timing couldn't have been better for final qualifying. I had a lot of motivation going in to the session and I guess sometimes it helps to drive angry. I'm thrilled to grab the pole on this track where I haven't had great success in recent years. Even though track position is key in terms of getting a clean start, I have a feeling the weather will be an even bigger factor on Sunday."

*MICHEL JOURDAIN JR. "We waited to go out but immediately there were three cars in the 58s and I figured it was going to be harder than I expected. We were able to find a clear lap and didn't encounter too much traffic on my fast lap. I did run into a bit of traffic later but it was not too much of a problem."

*ADRIAN FERNANDEZ "Third place is good for us although we thought we had a shot at pole. In the end we didn't have anything for Paul or Michel. The track is wide enough going into the first turn where I should not have to follow anyone into the corner. Third place is actually a good place to start here."

NOTEWORTHY

* By winning today's pole, Paul Tracy moved into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time CART Champ Car list of poles won with 15. He broke a tie with Bobby Unser and Juan Montoya and is now just one pole away from tying Gil de Ferran for seventh on the all-time list.

* After never having earned a front-row starting spot in his entire seven-year career, Michel Jourdain Jr. has now earned three in the last six races.

* Sebastien Bourdais has qualified in the top five in seven of his first eight CART Champ Car starts, equaling a record set by Teo Fabi in 1983. Fabi, who was running for Player's/Forsythe Racing that year, qualified ninth in the season opener, then never qualified lower than fourth for the rest of the 13-race season.

* In his return to the CART Champ Car World Series, Max Papis will start 15th in tomorrow's event. He put up a best lap of 59.704 seconds (118.726 mph) to qualify the PK Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone in the eighth row.

* Rodolfo Lavin drove his #5 Corona-sponsored Walker Racing machine to the 13th spot in today's qualifying, marking his best-ever road-course qualifying performance since joining the Champ Cars.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Roberto Moreno , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Bobby Unser , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Rodolfo Lavin , Teo Fabi , Michel Jourdain